Dramatic second day sees several leading drivers retire Toni Gardemeister rises to the challenge Mysterious handling problem slows Didier Auriol The Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team has reached the end of the second day of Rally New Zealand...
Dramatic second day sees several leading drivers retire
Toni Gardemeister rises to the challenge
Mysterious handling problem slows Didier Auriol
The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team has reached the end of the second day of Rally New Zealand with both Octavia WRC cars challenging for World Rally Championship points.
Yesterday's rain has given way to drier conditions that have been easier to contend with and Toni Gardemeister has shown just how quick a driver he is by climbing six places as the day progressed.
Having started today in 13th position, Toni has consistently set rapid times to move up to seventh place tonight despite running third on the road today. "After my problems with tyre choice yesterday I wasn't in the best position and I was hoping it would stay wet today," he said. "However, although I didn't get my wish it seems that the problems of cleaning the stages of loose gravel haven't been as bad as I thought and I've been able to drive virtually flat out all day. Either way the drier weather has made the tyre choice a lot easier today."
The choice may have been easy but on the final pair of forest stages, repeats of this morning's first stage (believed to be the longest of the entire 2003 World Rally Championship), tyre wear was extremely high. Toni completed SS14 with three punctures but maintained a strong overall position in the points as two of his potential rivals were forced to retire on the stage.
"It was disappointing to slip behind Freddy (Loix) on that stage but I think that it will still be possible to catch him tomorrow if everything is working properly," he said. "That would ensure that Škoda Motorsport finishes this event with a good points score from both Didier and myself."
Didier Auriol's overnight tenth position quickly changed on the first of today's seven stages when a problem with an electronic speed sensor occurred. "It was a very strange thing to happen," he said. "I felt that something wasn't right after we left this morning's first service and set off to the stage. Once we began the stage the car was handling very unpredictably and it was hard to keep it in the middle of the road at times."
The Škoda Motorsport engineers attempted to rectify the problem at the Paparoa service park following the stage but it could not be completely resolved until the team was able to change the centre differential of the Octavia WRC after SS12.
"The car felt fine afterwards but, like Toni, I had severe tyre wear on SS13 and SS14," said Didier. "We didn't get a puncture but it felt as though we had no tyres left at all after only five kilometres. However, other teams have had even bigger problems today and so to be lying eighth tonight isn't so bad at all."
Škoda Motorsport team principal, Pavel Janeba said this evening: "We've had our share of bad luck today but these things happen sometimes without warning. For that reason I am making absolutely no predictions for tomorrow!"
Tomorrow's final leg of the rally takes place to the south of Auckland, initially in the Te Akau region and then finally in the Maramarua forest. The Te Akau tests precede four more stages (two stages each run twice and with no service between) to conclude the event. Tomorrow's stages comprise a total of 113.81km before the finish at the Manukau Bowl at 3.30pm local time.